The Glory that was Greece: Peloponnese, Attica & Delphi (Fall)
Letter from the Lecturer
Greetings Fellow Travelers,
The Aegean Basin was the incubator for many cultures over the millennia. From the 15th century BC to the 15th century AD the events that enfolded here shaped the world that we inhabit today. As your archaeological guide I look forward to explaining key archaeological sites and monuments of Attika, Central Greece and the Peloponnesos that mark this journey with Mythscapes.
This voyage of discovery starts with the key sites and monuments of Athens and Attika. The Temple of Apollo at Cape Sounion is a perfect place to start with the basic components of Greek religion. The striking monuments of the Akropolis and the ancient city core in the Agora will mark the beginning of our discussion of what was a Greek city state, or polis. The New Akropolis Museum and the National Museum house the most important finds from Athens and Greece.
Ancient Corinth, one of the most important cities of Classical and Roman Greece sets the tone. The Sanctuary of Zeus atNemea was one of the four panhellenic sanctuaries of the Greek world.
The Bronze Age citadel at Mycenae was the seat of one of the Mycenaean kingdoms that occupied the Argolid. The burial monuments here, the Tholoi, are conspicuous markers of power and wealth. Its Museum displays the recent finds from the ongoing excavations there. The Sanctuary of Asklepios at Epidauros is renowned for its nearly perfectly preserved theater.
The Museum in Nafplion contains the finds from numerous sites in the Argolid. The Mycenaean citadel at Tiryns provides another example of their engineering skills. Jumping 3000 years the Byzantine town and citadel at Monemvasia gives a glimpse of life of another society.
Starting from a Frankish castle, the roughly contemporary Byzantine citadel and town at Mystras on the eastern edge of the towering Mt. Taiyettos has many well-preserved churches and public buildings.
At ancient Messene we will see what a late Classical/Hellenistic period city center looked like. Its defensive walls and gates are worth the visit alone. The picturesque Venetian fortress at Methoni, along with another one at nearby Koroni, guarded the route from Venice to the east.
The Mycenaean palace of Nestor at Pylos is the best-preserved of the three that we will visit. In the highlands of Arkadia atBassae is the innovative late 5th century BC Temple of Apollo Epikourios.
The Sanctuary of Zeus at Olympia is one the highlights of the trip. Another panhellenic sanctuary, with famous games, it is rich in architectural monuments and dedications. The Museum displays these and the sculptures from the 5th century BC Temple of Zeus.
The tour concludes with the Sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi. The third panhellenic sanctuary that we will visit, its oracle was known throughout the ancient Greek world. In this dramatic setting the visitors built monuments and made dedications that are landmarks of Greek art.
In the course of the tour I aim to put the Late Bronze Age, Geometric, Archaic, Classical, Hellenistic periods of Greek cultural development into context and into prospective. In doing this I will elucidate the purpose and meanings of buildings, monuments and art that we will see.
Mythscapes and I believe that we have put together something that will be worth your time and perhaps even change, however subtly or profoundly, the way you look at our own civilization.
David W. Rupp
Itinerary in Brief
Day 1: Arrival and welcoming dinner at Athens (Overnight: Athens)
Day 2: Athens-Acropolis (Overnight: Athens)
Day 3: Athens-Cape Sounion (Overnight: Athens)
Day 4: Ancient Corinth-Epidaurus (Overnight: Nafplio)
Day 5: Tiryns-Mycenae-Nafplio (Overnight: Naflpio)
Day 6: Nemea-Sparta-Monemvasia (Overnight: Monemvasia)
Day 7: Mystras-Kalamata (Overnight: Kalamata)
Day 8: Ancient Messene-Methoni (Overnight: Costa Navarino)
Day 9: Nestor's Palace-Temple of Epicurean Apollo (Overnight: Olympia)
Day 10: Olympia-Galaxidi (Overnight: Delphi)
Day 11: Athens (flight home)
Day 1: Arrival and welcoming dinner at Athens
Arrive at Athens Airport where you are met by our tour manager and transferred to our hotel. Spend your first night in Athens meeting fellow tour participants and our lecturer at a welcoming dinner.
Overnight: Athens (Dinner)
Day 2: Athens-Acropolis
Our day begins with a tour of the Acropolis, one of the most recognizable sites of the Western world. Our exploration begins with the Theatre of Dionysus and the Roman-era Odeon of HerodesAtticus, proceeds to the Temple of Athena Nike, the Propylaea (the main entrance to the Acropolis), the Erechtheion and the Parthenon, and concludes with a visit to the new Acropolis Museum. After taking lunch at a Greek taverna, we continue our tour at the Ancient Agora, just below the Pnyx hill, the site of the world’s first democratic legislature. In the Agora we visit the well preserved Temple of Hephaestus and the restored Stoa of Attalos. During the rest of the afternoon enjoy a walk in the alleys of the picturesque Turkish Quarter (Plaka), including the meandering streets of the Anafiotika section, continuing all the way to Syntagma square, center of modern Athens and site of Greece’s National Parliament.
Overnight: Athens (Breakfast-Dinner)
Day 3: Athens-Cape Sounion
Our first stop of the day will be at the National Archaeological Museum, the most important archaeological museum in Greece, which hosts rare exhibits from different excavation sites around Greece that date from prehistory to late antiquity. The highlights of the museum include the golden treasures of Mycenae (with the Mask of Agamemnon as centerpiece), the vast Sculptures collection, and the remarkable but still enigmatic Antikythera mechanism. Our next stop is the important Museum of Cycladic Art, which houses one of the most impressive collections of artifacts from the Cycladic Civilization that flourished during the Early Bronze Age. In the afternoon we drive south to the tip of the Attica Peninsula at Cape Sounion to visit the Temple of Poseidon and enjoy breathtaking views of the Aegean Sea and the Saronic gulf. This is where the legendary king of Athens Aegeus leapt to his death, giving his name to the Aegean Sea. Sounion has been a sacred site since very ancient times and the marble temple at the top has served as a landmark for sailors for many centuries. By the 7th century BC there were two temples on the site, one dedicated to Poseidon and the other to Athena, but the Temple of Poseidon that now stands at Sounion was built in 444 BC atop the older temple ruins. Modern travelers, including Lord Byron in 1810, visited Sounion long before excavations started on the site (late 19th century). On the way back to Athens we dine at a beautiful coastal restaurant.
Overnight: Athens (Breakfast-Dinner)
Day 4: Ancient Corinth-Epidaurus
In the morning we depart Athens and head towards southern Greece. We first cross the Isthmus of Corinth over the Corinth canal, which began to be built by the Emperor Nero in the 1st century AD, but was finally constructed in the late 19th century. Our first stop is at Ancient Corinth, one of the most important city-states of the Classical period and the seat of government for southern Greece under the Romans. One of the highlights of our visit will be the temple of Apollo that was built around 550 BC. We will also visit the Acropolis of Corinth (Acrocorinth), which contains several shrines dedicated to female deities, including the famous and wealthy temple of Aphrodite. After lunch we visit Epidaurus, known for its healing springs but mainly for one of the most expertly designed and best preserved theaters of the ancient world. The archaeological site of Epidaurus sprawls over several levels. At the highest point, the Sanctuary of Apollo Maleatas overlooks the rest of the site. Lower down, to the south-west, is the Theatre and the famous Sanctuary of Asclepios with its various buildings. By the 5th century Epidaurus already enjoyed great renown, both for the miraculous cures that occurred there and for the games held every four years. The group of buildings comprising the Sanctuary of Epidaurus bears exceptional testimony to the healing cults of the Hellenic and Roman worlds. The temples and the facilities dedicated to the healing gods constitute a coherent and complete ensemble at this vast site. We spend the evening at the charming city of Nafplio, the first capital of the modern Greek state.
Overnight: Nafplion (Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner)
Day 5: Tiryns-Mycenae-Nafplio
Mycenae and Tiryns represent the apogee of the Mycenaean civilization, which developed on the Greek mainland in the late Bronze Age and was essentially a continuation of the Middle Helladic culture (2100-1550 BC), transformed by Minoan influences from Crete. The two sites are indissolubly linked with the Homeric epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey, the influence of which upon European literature and the arts has been profound for more than three millennia. Our day begins with a visit at Tiryns, known for its palace and its impressive walls. The Tiryns citadel is the second most important prehistoric Argive acropolis (after Mycenae). Then we continue to mighty Mycenae, home of Agamemnon and epicenter of Greek power during the Trojan War. We get the chance to stand under the emblematic Lion Gate, explore the famous shaft tombs and examine the city’s palace and cyclopean walls, remnants of a civilization that reached its peak about a thousand years before the Classical period. Most of the monuments visible today were erected between 1350 and 1200 BC, at the very peak of Mycenae's power. However other remains, such as the Grave Circle B (a stone-built funerary enclosure containing monumental graves with rich grave gifts), indicates that the first families of rulers and aristocrats appeared at Mycenae at approximately 1700 BC. Finds from all these monuments confirm that the powerful Mycenaean rulers participated in a complex network of commercial exchange with many other parts of the Mediterranean. In the evening, we visit the Venetian fortress at Nafplio (Palamidi), which has been preserved in excellent condition and constitutes one of the greatest achievements of Venetian fortification architecture. Later on we will explore the old part city, perhaps the most important urban center of the newly founded Greek state during the early 19th century.
Overnight: Nafplion (Breakfast-Dinner)
Day 6: Nemea-Sparta-Monemvasia
We depart in the morning for the southeastern part of the Peloponnese and on our way we make a stop to inspect the site of Ancient Nemea, home of the Nemean Games and a partly renovated Temple of Zeus. 400m away from the temple lies the Nemea Stadium which could accommodate 40,000 spectators. The stadium was excavated in 1974-1981 by the American School of Classical Studies under the direction of Professor Stephen Miller (University of California, Berkeley), who also directed the renovation work on the Temple of Zeus. Professor Miller will be waiting for us in Nemea to talk to us about the history of the region and his work there. We continue to the modern town of Sparta which lies next to the remnants of the ancient city. The Acropolis of the town, the “Tomb of Leonidas”, the ruins of the temple of Halkioikos Athina and the temple of Orthia Artemis, those of a theater of the 2nd century B.C. and a 10th century Christian church can be seen. After lunch, we learn more about the ancient art of olive oil production at the local museum and then drive south to reach the beautiful medieval town of Monemvasia, nicknamed Gibraltar of the East. It is located 400 meters away from the mainland, separated by an earthquake in 375 AD. It was founded by the Byzantines in the sixth century and shortly after it became an important port. It remained in Byzantine possession for almost seven hundred years until it was captured by the Franks in 1249 after a three year siege.
Overnight: Monemvasia (Breakfast-Dinner)
Day 7: Mystras-Kalamata
In the morning, we begin our drive towards the city of Kalamata. On our way, we get a chance to admire the fortifiedtown of Mystras, located on the slopes of Mt. Taygetus. Mystras came into existence in 1248-49 AD when the Frankish lord, William II of Villehardouin, Prince of Achaia, resolved to build a great castle on the top of the 620 m hill overlooking Sparta. A few years later it fell to the Byzantines and from 1348 to 1460 AD, Mystras became the capital of the Despotate of Morea. The despotate was the expression of the relative desire for decentralization of the Cantacuzenos (1348-84) and Paleologus (1384-1460) dynasties, which, according to a system modeled on feudalism, conferred power to family, in most cases to sons or brothers. When Mystras fell to Mohammed II and the Ottomans in 1460 AD, the event was seen in the West and in the East as being almost equal in importance to the fall of Constantinople seven years earlier. The beauty of the churches of Mystras, which during the Paleologus Renaissance had been covered with dramatic frescoes, the renown of the libraries of Mystras and the glory of its writers (including Georges Gemiste Plethon and Jean Bessarion) gave substance to the legend of the 'Wonder of Morea'. We enjoy the rest of the day relaxing at the beach at Kalamata or one of the many cafes and bars of the city. At night, we drive to nearby Vergas beach, where we dine at a traditional taverna while enjoying views of the Messenian gulf.
Overnight: Kalamata (Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner)
Day 8: Ancient Messene-Methoni
Before heading toward the west coast of the Peloponnese, we make ourway north to Ancient Messene, one of the most impressive archaeological sites in the entire Peloponnese. Ancient Messene was founded in 369 BC by Theban general Epaminondas, after liberating the Messenian helots from the Spartans. The vast site possesses not only sanctuaries and public buildings, but also imposing fortifications, houses and tombs. It enjoys, amongst other things, the advantage of never having been destroyed or covered by later settlements, and is located on an unspoiled inland site. Next we drive southwest towards the picturesque coastal town of Methoni. We visit the impressive medieval fortress built by the Venetians upon ancient battlements that existed there until at least the 4th century BC. The castle occupies the entire cape area; the southwestern coast to the small islet that has also been fortified with an octagonal tower and is protected by the sea on its three sides. Afterwards we stop to have lunch at one of the best tavernas in the region. We spend our evening at the luxury resort of Costa Navarino, where we can relax and enjoy its magnificent facilities or stroll up the nearby hills and enjoy breathtaking views of Navarino bay.
Overnight: Costa Navarino (Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner)
Day 9: Nestor's Palace-Temple of Epicurean Apollo
In the morning we begin our drive north toward the famed site of Ancient Olympia. We first stop at Nestor’s Palace where the famousLinear B tablets, the earliest evidence of written Greek, were discovered by Carl Blegen in 1939. We continue north and make a detour along the way driving up the mountains of Arcadia to visit theTemple of Epicurean Apollo at Vassai of Figaleia. This is one of the best preserved but little-visited (due to its remoteness) ancient temples in the whole of Greece. It is unique in the history of ancient Greek architecture because it combines a variety of novel ideas both in its external appearance and in its internal arrangements. The building is dated to 420-400 BC and is believed to be the work of Iktinos, who succeeded in combining masterfully several Archaic features imposed by the conservative tradition of the Arcadians with the characteristics of the new Classical style. We reach Olympia early in the afternoon. We spend the rest of the day relaxing and exploring the charming town squares and cafes.
Overnight: Olympia (Breakfast-Dinner)
Day 10: Olympia-Galaxidi
The whole day is devoted to the sanctuary of Olympia, site of the famous Olympic Games of the ancient Hellenic world. Although secluded near the west coast of the Peloponnese, Olympia became the most important religious and athletic centre in Greece. The Olympic Games eventually became the greatest 'national' festival, contributing to the creation of a proto-national 'Hellenic identity'. However, the fame of the festival, which was held every four years to honor Zeus, spread beyond the Hellenic world to the rest of the ancient Mediterranean world. We walk the ground where the games were held from as early as 776 BC. We explore areas such the main stadium, the gymnasium, the palaestra and the prytaneion. We also observe the remains of the workshop of Pheidias, where the famous artist sculpted the gigantic statue of Zeus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The massive temple of Zeus is the largest temple in the Peloponnese, considered by many to be the perfect example of Doric architecture. We conclude our tour of Olympia with a visit to the new archaeological museum which houses artifacts found in the ancient site, such as Hermes of Praxiteles and the Nike of Paeonius. After lunch, we visit the Merkouri estate where we get the chance to sample the excellent local wine. After the tour of the estate and wine tasting, we continue our journey towards mythical Delphi, navel of the earth for ancient Greeks. On our way to Delphi, we stop to stretch our legs at the picturesque coastal town of Galaxidi. Situated on a natural double harbour surrounded by mountains, Galaxidi's deeper main harbour provides docking facilities for yachts and small fishing boats and is lined with restaurants, bars, and stores. The smaller harbour is residential, with a central plateia(square) which offers splendid views of the western part of Parnassus, including Delphi.
Overnight: Delphi (Breakfast-Dinner)
Day 11: Delphi-Athens (end of tour)
The entire day is dedicated to Delphi, home of the most importantsanctuary of antiquity and regarded as the center of the world during ancient times. Between the 6th and 4th centuries BC, the Delphic oracle, which was regarded as the most trustworthy in the world, was at its peak. It was delivered by the Pythia, the priestess, and interpreted by the priests of Apollo. Cities, rulers and ordinary individuals alike consulted the oracle, expressing their gratitude with great gifts and spreading its fame around the world. We begin at the base of Mt. Parnassus and the Tholos round temple dedicated to Athena. We continue to the medium level and the famous Oracle of Apollo from where the priestess Pythia delivered her influential prophecies. This is where the statues and other offerings to the god were kept, and where the cult rituals, including that of divination, took place. Moving up the hill, we encounter the well preserved Theater of Delphi and the imposing Stadium, used for the quadrennial Pythian Games. Finally, we visit the museum of Delphi which houses a vast collection of archaeological finds from the site, including the famed Charioteer of Delphi. After lunch, we drive back to the airport in Athens where we board our flight or spend the night at the St. George Lycabettus hotel to catch our flight the next day. For those who wish to extend their stay and explore Crete, there is an option to spend two nights in Athens relaxing before joining Professor Rupp for the Mythscapes tour of Crete.
Optional Overnight: Athens (Breakfast)
Should there be any problems with booking your flight to Athens, please do not hesitate to contact us.
One of our major objectives at Mythscapes is to offer the best available accommodation at every single destination. Below is a list with the hotels that you will be staying in during the tour:
Athens: The St.George Lycabettus is a 5-star hotel situated in Kolonaki, the most exclusive quarter of Athens and offersbreathtaking views of the city and the Acropolis. The hotel boasts 154 luxurious guestrooms and a number of first rate facilities and services, including a swimming pool, a health club, a Zen-influenced spa and massage treatments.
Nafplio: The Grande Bretagne is a 5-star boutique hotel, centrally located in the old part of the city of Nafplio. The hotel offers excellent service and its location is ideal for exploring the narrow streets of old Nafplio.
Monemvasia: Hotel Likinia is 4-star luxury hotel at the heart of the castle of Monemvasia and is by far the best hotel in the area. It is a beautiful complex of four 2-floor buildings made of stone. The careful restoration of the buildings was done with full respect to the traditional architecture of the Castle of Monemvasia.
Kalamata: The Classical Filoxenia at Kalamata is a 5-star hotel, perfect for relaxation. It has a private beach, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, poolside bar, health center and spa.
Costa Navarino: Costa Navarino is one the most exclusive destinations in the Mediterranean. It comprises of a number ofdistinct sites featuring 5-star deluxe hotels, luxury high-end residences, world-class spa centers and signature golf courses.
Olympia: Hotel Europa is a very well kept 4-star hotel, the best available accommodation in the area. There is a lovely outdoors Greek taverna within the hotel premises, a swimming pool, and a tennis court. It is built on the top of Drouvas Hill form which you can enjoy truly magnificent views.
Delphi: The Amalia Delphi is a 4-star hotel (the most luxurious at Delphi).It is wonderfully located at the foot of mount Parnassus, offering panoramic views to the green valley, all the way to the sea, Itea and the beautiful town of Galaxidi. The hotel has spacious guestrooms with their balconies and terraces spread over four levels, all nested in the amazing Delphian landscape.
Full or half board, depending on day (see itinerary), full inland transportation, tickets to museums and archaeological sites.
You will also be provided with a folder with material about the sites that we are going to visit, carefully selected by our lecturer. Also, for those who really want the full scholarly experience, you will receive a comprehensive reading list via email before departure in order to be able to be fully prepared if you so wish. Naturally, reading or knowing this material is by no means a prerequisite in order to enjoy the tour. We are just happy accommodate the needs of even the most demanding of our travellers.
• Τickets to Athens from abroad, return tickets from Athens.